An experimental patch has demonstrated the ability to safely administer an influenza vaccine that produces a robust immune response, signifying a future in which self-administration of vaccines could become common practice.  

The patch, about the size of dime, has 100 small water-soluble needles that are just long enough to penetrate the skin. The vaccine is encapsulated in the needle tips and is released and dissolves within minutes of application.

The researchers, from Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory University, believe that with further development the bandage could become a viable alternative to injections. They enrolled 100 individuals in an influenza vaccine randomized trial; one group was administered the microneedle patch by a healthcare provider; one group self-administered the microneedle patch; one group was administered an intramuscular injection by a healthcare provider; and one group was administered a placebo microneedle patch. 

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Blood sample analyses showed that the antibody responses generated by the vaccine were similar in the microneedle patch group and the intramuscular injection group. These immune responses were still present after 6 months. Additionally, there was no significant difference in the doses of vaccine delivered between the microneedle patches administered by healthcare workers and those that were self-administered.

“A particularly attractive feature is that this vaccination patch could be delivered in the mail and self-administered,” said Roderic I. Pettigrew, PhD, MD, and director of the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB) who provided funding for the study. The positive self-administration results indicate that the patch could have the potential to reduce the costs of vaccination as healthcare workers may not be needed to supervise the process.

The researchers are planning further trials to assess the effectiveness of the patch for influenza vaccination, and are also developing microneedle patches for use with other vaccines such as measles, rubella and polio.

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